10 reasons why the Beatles were the greatest band ever

10 reasons why the Beatles were the greatest band ever

published: August 20, 2012
Jeff Becker

1) They released 13 quality albums in just 8 years

That’s extraordinarily prolific.  No, it’s out-of-this-world prolific.   Yes, that was a different day and a different time but for comparison purposes today’s standard is one new album every three years.  Look at acts like U2, Radiohead, Madonna, Coldplay, Pearl Jam, etc. The thought of those acts releasing two albums of new material per year is nearly ludicrous to ponder.   In the span of 8 years currently, most top acts release about three full albums.  The Beatles released 13.

2) They released 7 of the greatest albums in the top 20 of all time

Take your pick but a solid argument could be made to place Revolver, Rubber Soul, Sgt. Pepper, The White Album, Let it Be, Abbey Road and Magical Mystery Tour in the top 20 of all time.  Yes, Let it Be and Magical Mystery Tour would be on the periphery but they belong.

3) Three rock and roll Hall of Fame songwriters

Most bands would die to have just one.  The Beatles had three, including the top two of all time (Lennon, McCartney).  Yes, George Harrison didn’t evolve and shine brightly until Team Beatles was on life support in 1968ish, but his contributions are some of the pillars of their post-Sgt. Pepper work (‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, ‘Something’, ‘Here Comes the Sun’).

4) They got tired of singing over the top of screaming teenaged fans – so they quit touring

The Beatles, quite amazingly did not tour to support the 2nd half of their career.  That’s the half of their career that included every great album listed above.  They bucked all standard practices and chose to grow up in the studio versus standing in front of 16 year old fans at oversold baseball stadiums with shitty acoustics.

5) The Beatles went head-to-head against some of the greatest competition to their throne in history

Look who the Beatles toppled: The Rolling Stones, Dylan, Elvis, Pink Floyd, The Beach Boys, Hendrix.   Whether you believe that Radiohead, Arcade Fire or U2 are the greatest band alive right now, who is their competition?   Coldplay?? The Black Keys??  Please.

6) They created pop music

They didn’t embellish it or make it better – they created it.  It started heavy with Rubber Soul and Revolver and songs like ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, ‘Penny Lane’, ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ were the fruition and evolution of a new style of music.  They were the trigger of a revolution that became pop culture.

7) They created the album concept

Thank you, Sgt. Pepper.  No longer a simple collection of random songs, in 1966/67 the Beatles decided to turn albums into themes and stories.   Sgt. Pepper was the first gatefold cover LP and the first time an album utilized all of the non-hits as part of the story.   Everyone else had filler – the Beatles had albums.   I’ll plagiarize an analogy from a Kid A review I recently read.  The Beatles in 1967 were holding an aquarium and everyone else was holding up blue construction paper.

8) They disbanded in their prime

John Lennon was only 30 when the Beatles broke up.   McCartney was 28.  George Harrison was 27.  Ringo Starr was 30.  They still had youth and they still had many years remaining in their prime but they stopped while they were on top, ending a string of success that is unparalleled.  Imagine Muhammed Ali retiring in 1974 instead of 1981 and what you have is the Beatles.  Imagine Elvis retiring in 1968 before becoming a shell of himself by his death, and what you have is the Beatles.   Imagine the Rolling Stones retiring in 1973, or U2 in 1993.   Where some bands play on (and on, and on, and on – i.e., The Rolling Stones, The Who), The Bealtes stopped and became iconic.   No band ever called it quits at a greater time – with the bar set so high that Jesus himself would need a stepladder and a go-go gadget left arm to reach it.   Impeccable timing, even if it wasn’t planned to be that way at the time.   I mean seriously, would any of us have really wanted to see a new Beatles album in 1977 at #2 on the charts one notch behind Saturday Night Fever?  No thanks.  Our universe would have ended on that day.

9) They didn’t get back together years later (after the magic was gone) for a reunion album or a reunion tour or a reunion gig, or a Super Bowl halftime appearance

Amen!   The remaining Beatles eschewed millions (and we’re not being facetious when we say multi-multi-millions) of dollars of cash to avoid the chance at a failed return to greatness.  They chose their hatred for each other during the 70’s over the millions of dollars on the table and we thank them for it.   That doesn’t imply I would not adore Beatles album #14 if it existed but I’m happy with my collection of 13, thank you very much.

10) They had one member willing to look at the government and say fuck you

No hero in rock or pop culture has ever replaced John Lennon.  Bono has been close and that’s a credit to his philanthropic energy, but he’s different than Lennon.  Whether Lennon’s ideas sucked or were completely polarizing at least he had the stones to share them.  He flipped off the concept of being a boy band by the end of 1964 and he grew up faster than any other Beatle.  He pushed the press and the government in directions like never before.   McCartney gave us melody but Lennon gave us balls.

One fantastic moment of Lennon (from June 1, 1969) taken from the 1988 documentary ‘Imagine’ showed the in-bed interview with the humorist, antagonist and cartoonist Al Capp accusing Lennon of doing the infamous in-bed protest as a publicity stunt to make money.
Lennon immediately and eloquently went back at Capp eye to eye, “You think I couldn’t earn money by some other way…by sitting in bed for seven days, taking shit from people like you?  I could write a song in an hour and earn more money.”
It was Lennon’s most eloquent way of telling Capp and the world that I could take your money if I wanted to but I’d rather spend my time telling my government how I feel.  It just didn’t get any better than that clip to learn everything you needed to know about Lennon and the Beatles.  They left millions on the table and for all the right reasons.

Which Beatles album landed #1 on our list of the Top 15 Albums of All Time?

Which band do we think is the most important since the Beatles?

Referenced articles:  http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/6656-kid-a/

22 thoughts on “10 reasons why the Beatles were the greatest band ever

  1. Dylan

    there are tons and tons of reasons why the beatles were fucking awesome. But only one of those reasons reigns upon all of them. John Lennon was the God of music himself.

  2. DrRoberts

    My only quibble with your article is that you should have called it: Why the Beatles ARE the greatest band ever.
    They were light years ahead of the rest in the 60s and their music continues to influence people to this day.
    Just look at the sad, old, Stones as they trawl through their 50 and Counting Tour. The only thing they’re counting is the money! Can’t stand Jagger’s phoney working-class accent – the guy grew up in a middle class family in the wealthiest part of Britain.

    1. twths Post author

      I agree with you entirely about the Rolling Stones. Their recent tour makes me realize how much I’ve grown to dislike them. They haven’t released a good album since 1978. That’s 35 years and counting! If any other band in the world released the same albums the Stones have released since 1978 they’d have died away a long time ago.

  3. Russ

    I like to think that I have coined the next two phrases……..The Beatles are when people stopped dancing and started listening to the music. And The Beatles singlehandedly legitimized Rock and Roll as a art form.

    1. Simon

      Dude, you totally stole those lines from the 1982 Beatles documentary ‘The Compleat Beatles’!

      When some professor of music was discussing the Sgt. Pepper album he said something to the affect that the album marked the point when pop/rock music ceased being “ritual dance music” and became music to be listened too. He also said it legitamised rock as an art form.

      Busted!

  4. Pingback: Why are the Beatles Important to Music History - Dark Horse Institute

  5. Rick

    Best band ever period, it is now 2016 and this new music really sucks,
    taylor swift, kanye west, give me a break its all about raping women killing your family
    etc etc…………..

  6. RB

    Very good article but I have to correct your unfortunate boy band reference to The early Beatles.

    The Beatles were *NEVER* a ”boy band”! As a poster Reverend Rock,who is a rock musician,reverend and a big Beatles fan said on a classic rock site years ago,that anyone who knows The Beatles history knows it’s ludicrous to even *suggest* such a thing! And what a huge insult to their enormous talent as true singers,song writers and musicians! The Beatles were a *zillion* times more talented and cool than any stupid,uncool,untalented real boy band!

    The Monkees are the first true boy band because they didn’t even start off as a genuine band, they were all musical but they were originally hired as actors to play members of a TV pop rock band for their TV show, they didn’t start off playing together like Paul at age 15,George age 14 and John age 16 playing guitars and singing,then playing a few years later for 8 hours a night in sleazy strip clubs( and The Beatles had sex with many young women groupies,many who were teen girls and strippers) like The Beatles did in Hamburg Germany(or anywhere) for 2 years in a row,taking speed pills to stay awake to do it,and working their a*ses off playing as a real rock n roll band,and then playing successfully in the Cavern club as a real rock n roll band for years by the time they made it big.

    And The Beatles wrote and played a lot of great rock n roll and pop rock songs in their early days. John and Paul wrote the rock n roll song I Wanna Be Your Man write in front of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger in 1963 and they were both really impressed that they could just write a song just like that,and it inspired them to start writing their own songs and both bands became good friends from then on. And this song was one of The Rolling Stones first hits.

    There is just no comparison to The Monkees etc. A guy so accurately said on a message board many years ago when some idiots called them a ”boy band” that The Beatles were *never* a boy band,not even during their 1963-1965 period. And another guy said a few years after this on another forum,when some idiot said this,that he too once thought the early Beatles were a boy band like NYSNC,or The Back Street Boys,until he got out of 7th grade.

    Every time some ignorant person unjustly calls them a boy band,I’m sure John Lennon’s ashes must be turning with outrage.I’m sure he would go on to these sites and say I was *not* the founder and the leader of some f*king,stupid,uncool,untalented, boy band get that through your stupid f*cking heads!

    And younger people don’t know what type of music was out in 1963,even though I wasn’t born yet,I know that The Beatles early songs like She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand were hard rock compared to the music out then.There was just Bobby Darin,The Four Seasons,Bobby Vinton and The Beach Boys surfing hits.

    1. austin burt

      The Beatles were the best because: Ringo Starr had parts that really served the songs and had a tremendous groove-which can’t be taught.Later on as they grew in sophistication, Ringo grew with them with tasty and innovative touches.Every drummer in pop music is now playing his style of fills practically. A real understated innovator.George Harrison wrote parts-perfect parts-that served the songs and was one of the finest guitar players (not the most technical), but classy in all of rock, Paul is arguably one of the best rock bassists ever, Lennon was a propulsive and exciting rhythm guitar player adn could play some mean leads himself.. The songs-there were two of the best writers ever with a good one (George) who on occasion swerved into brilliance.The lyrics were mostly simple and yet full of character as well as the unexpected “it is time for tea and meet the wife” .They were honest musicians who player sincerely and with great uninhibited joy-zero pretension a very very very rare thing particularly today with Facebook culture and narcissism at all time highs.When you play for real it is the truth and everyone knows it and wants to hear more. John had probably one of the most captivating and passionate voices ever and Paul was a fantastic and passionate singer.Both their voices were completely complementary and when George chimed in his timbre was a mix of the two.They had songs that were arranged with no extra crap-every part was an interplay that served the song with little fuss. I think someone once said “Quasi Instrumental duetting” They were stylistically innovative.Each record, with the exception of Let it Be broke new ground and set the tone of Pop music and all its derivative styles to this day.They were more prolific that anyone before or since and that tremendous output was unmatched in quality.I could go on…..

      1. David

        No drummer has copied ringo fucking Starr Hahaha he couldn’t lace Neil peart, Keith moon or John bonhams boots. And paul McCartney one of the best rock bassists ever haha John entwistle, John deacon or any bassist for that matter embarrass him. Fucking deluded.

    1. John

      Entwhistle was not better than McCartney just busier. McCartney never needed extra notes to prove himself. His musical brilliance is evident forever. Only an ignoramous would think otherwise. Ringo didn’t need to be Bonham-who was extraordinary as was Bonham’s idol: Keith Moon but Ringo is still a beloved, singular, outstanding drummer in the greatest band ever

  7. Justin Perry

    They were and still are the Colossus Of Rhodes towering above all other bands and musicians. They are Joe Montana, the New York Yankees, Clint Eastwood, and Mother Teresa rolled into one. Bow before their might.

  8. John

    We shouldn’t forget the ground breaking albums: “With the Beatles ” A Hard Day’s Night ” & Help” (The British versions)

  9. John

    The one thing about the Beatles is despite their enormous commercial success they excelled their art form to a height never out done by future artists who had the benefit of their time less influence

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